Here’s my story from Mahopac’s win over Somers tonight – the Indians’ 13th straight:
SOMERS — Call it a post-County Center high or a pre-Christmas lull. Whatever the label, Mahopac found itself struggling in December on the heels of two straight trips to the Class AA semifinals.
The second appearance at Section 1’s mecca included a loss in last year’s championship game to Mount Vernon, yet these Indians bore little resemblance to that team until a season-changing win over St. Mary’s of Manhasset at the Slam Dunk.
“They are a confident group, and we just had to get back to playing a little harder,” Mahopac coach Kevin Downes said Tuesday night. “We had big heads in the beginning of the season.”
The Indians not only refocused, they grasped the remainder of their schedule in a stranglehold. They won their 13th straight 55-36 Tuesday night to finish the regular season 15-3 after methodically pulling away on Somers’ home floor.
Mahopac, which also had a 12-game winning streak before last season’s championship game, won’t play until Feb. 15 in the opening round of the Class AA tournament.
“We don’t know who we’re playing yet, but we have to look at it one game at a time,” said senior Brendan Hynes, who had 24 points and five rebounds. “Hopefully, we can make it back to the County Center.”
Anything less might qualify as a disappointment for the Indians, who clinched their third league title and fourth in the past five seasons last week. Tuesday was something of a confirmation. They once again limited Somers star John Decker, Section 1’s leading scorer, who had eight points and hit just one field goal.
Mahopac corralled Decker with its 3-2 matchup zone with senior swingman Dan Tully (pictured above) being the busiest defender.
Decker, who averages over 25 points per game, now has just 17 in his past three against the neighboring Indians.
“I think it’s our defense,” Tully said. “He doesn’t know how to handle it. He has to look for his own shots, and it doesn’t seem like he’s getting much help.”
In fact, Decker and the Tuskers (12-4) received plenty of assistance from big man Max Parks (pictured right), who accepted the challenge from Mahopac’s bulky front line of 6-foot-4 Ryan Simone and Mike Simone and 6-foot-8 John Vitkus. Parks had 11 points and nine blocks, keeping Somers within 38-31 through three quarters. The Indians pulled away in the fourth behind the dogged brilliance of Hynes. Their 15-0 run in the middle of the period helped gain control.
“They wore us down in the fourth quarter last time, and I felt the same thing happened today,” first-year Somers coach Chris DiCintio said. “In the fourth quarter, we were just spent.”
“I think our length, our strength, was a big factor,” Downes said. “We play hard, and I don’t think teams can match that most times.”